Although Health & Fitness Business show owner VNU announced in May it had decided to keep the August show in Denver based on popular demand -- despite construction disruptions at the convention center -- show management is now fishing around with some exhibitors asking how they would feel about a move to Salt Lake City in 2005.
Management is also toying with rotating the show between cities after 2005. But Show Director Lance Camisasca stresses nothing has been booked or decided. In fact, he declined to say the company was actually "negotiating" with Salt Lake City, but rather said it was only "talking" to the convention center management there.
"We're playing both sides of the fence" right now, Camisasca told SNEWS. "05 is up for grabs, and we might go for it."
The 2004 show will remain in Denver and is set for Aug. 19-21.
The debate over location stems from major construction at the convention center and in the downtown area of Denver that began earlier this year and will continue through early 2006. When it's over, the convention center will double in size and there'll be several more hotels and additional restaurants nearby. That means that the minor disturbances last August and in 2004 will be full-blown in 2005, with hallways being realigned and entrances being altered.
"One of the concerns we had -- and we still have it -- is that the convention center is going under a major rehab," Camisasca said. "We don't want to be there if it's sloppy, with jackhammers for background."
Salt Lake City came up because "it seemed like a logical place to go while Denver was upside down," he said. Salt Lake is also where VNU runs its huge biannual Outdoor Retailer show. The summer outdoor show is usually the weekend after the fitness show, although in 2004, due to date conflicts in Denver, the fitness show will be the weekend after Summer Market. Camisasca did affirm that the first week of August is where the fitness show will normally remain.
The train of thought then went a step further, he said: "If we went to Salt Lake City in 2005, wouldn't it be fun to go back to Denver in '06, then alternate cities and go back and forth. But that's pure speculation."
He said he and the company are open to comments and ask anybody with opinions to email him immediately (firstname.lastname@example.org); the company usually announces show dates up to 18 months before the event, so VNU is expected to nail down 2005 dates by December and announce its decision by January, he said.
In the results of an independent survey by VNU that SNEWS published in May, HFB attendees and exhibitors said they considered Salt Lake City less desirable. In the survey, 82 percent of respondents said they would attend or exhibit in Salt Lake City for 2004 and 2005, even though it wasn't considered most desirable. Commented one respondent: "I don't like SLC, but would attend regardless of the location."
"Denver is working," Camisasca said. "It's rated very highly."
SNEWS View: Hmm, we can understand wanting to avoid disturbances and dust during construction, but if everyone seems to like going to Denver, then why change it? How does that saying go again? "If it ain't broke,..." Other than no construction, Salt Lake City doesn't offer any advantages -- especially for a compact little show like Health & Fitness Business. Denver has accessible shopping, restaurants, hotels, light rail, coffee houses, breweries and REAL beer, not to mention no odd laws about alcohol and bars, as in Utah. Heck, Denver even has nightlife. Perhaps Denver's drayage costs are a bit more and the operation in Salt Lake City is a bit "looser," we are told, about exhibitors touching or carrying -- gasp! -- their own stuff, but it's not as if an exhibitor is going to schlep its own treadmills and weight plates into a hall anyway. For VNU, it's possible that SLC may be willing to offer some sweet package deals and savings if both the outdoor and fitness shows are there since that city wants badly to keep Outdoor Retailer, just as discussions are heating up about moving that show to the likes of Reno or even Las Vegas, Nev. That may actually taint these "talks" because, as we all know, money talks too. But it's been said multiple times: The fitness folks like Denver in August. Let's stay there.